Heart of Darkness, by Joseph Conrad

Heart of darkness

Heart of Darkness is a novel by Joseph Conrad and it is set in the Victorian period, at the term of the 19th century. We have to take into account this characteristic in order to understand many of the issues such as imperialism, woman, and different cultures.

The story (inspired on Conrad’s journey to the Congo) is told by Marlow, but in fact there is another narrator who is a supporter of the Empire, which means that there are different points of view.

Marlow tells us a story he once had in Africa. There, he could compare his own culture with the natives’ one, and he was witness of slavery and cruelty.

Another important character is Kurtz, the chief, who, in the end, has become part of that culture although he was a Victorian man.

The author presents to us two different women whose descriptions are really interesting if we compare one to the other.

Features of Heart of Darkness

When reading Heart of Darkness, you should take into account some features of modernist novel:

  • The focus on a subjective process of a complex character, displaying (but nor resolving) contradictions
  • The fact that Marlow is an unreliable narrator. We can’t trust him because he represents a subjective perspective.
  • The story within-story structure of the novel, which establishes the context for Marlow’s narration..
  • The display of Victorian values in a context of crisis
  • The fact that Marlow’s experience reproduces Conrad’s own experience in Africa.
  • The unstable meaning of some significant signs such as “darkness” and “horror”.
  • Marlow psychological and ideological conflict between “kinship” and “alienation” in relation to Africa.
  • Relativism: there is dark in both places.

I took an extract from the novel that may help you to understand some issues.

…”yes; I looked at them as you would on any human being, with a curiosity of their impulses, motives, capacities, weaknesses, when brought to the test of an inexorable physical necessity. Restraint! What possible restraint? Was it superstition, disgust, patience, fear- or some kind of primitive honour? No fear can stand up to hunger, no patience can wear it out, disgust simply does not exist where hunger is; and as to superstition, beliefs, and what you may call principles, they are less than chaff in a breeze. Don’t you know the devilry of lingering starvation, its exasperating torment, its black thoughts, its sombre and brooding ferocity? Well, I do. It takes a man all his inborn strength to fight hunger properly. It’s really easier to face bereavement, dishonour, and the perdition of one´s soul – than this kind of prolonged hunger. Sad, but true. And these chaps too had no earthly reason for any kind of scruple. Restraint! I would just as soon have expected restraint from a hyena prowling amongst the corpses of a battlefield. But there was the fact facing me-the fact dazzling, to be seen, like the foam on the depths of the sea, like the ripple on an unfathomable enigma, a mystery greater- when I thought of it – than the curious, inexplicable note of desperate grief in this savage clamour that had swept by us on the river-bank, behind the blind whiteness of the fog…”

In this extract, restraint is a key word; it means to control. We relate Victorian society to restraint since it is full of restrictions, and to the control of impulses.

Marlow sees this people from a Victorian viewpoint, and because of this he does not think that their behaviour is the common one.  Marlow has the typical prejudices of the Victorian society. Chinua Achebe claims that the full novel is a racist text, since, from his perspective, Africans are not seen as human beings; and they are compared to a hyena.

Marlow fail to understand that the primitive man has his own culture. How can they show restraint if this term is associated to the civilised people? How is it possible for them to eat according to some patterns?

Here you can clearly see the inability to see and understand another human being different from us.

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The Great Gatsby, by Francis Scott Fitzgerald (I)

I had to read this novel a year ago for a university project. We hadn’t read anything of the author, though his name sounded familiar. It was when I was looking for information about Fitzgerald’s biography that I found interesting things about his life and I realized that he was also the author of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. I saw the film in the cinema and when I read this short story, I got really disappointed-they have barely nothing to do, the film is very different  from the original source.

But I would like to write on Fitzgerald’s masterpiece: The Great Gatsby.

Let’s begin with a summary of the plot.

The Great Gatsby is a novel by the American author Francis Scott Fitzgerald. First published on April 10, 1925. It is set on Long Island’s North Shore and in New York City during the summer of 1922. It is a critique of the American Dream.

Cover of the first edition, 1925

Isn’t it surprising such a modern cover? Take into account that it was first published in 1925!

The Great Gatsby tells the story of the main character called Jay Gatsby, who is a young millionaire that appears on Long Island in 1922. Nobody knows how he got such a fortune so there are all kinds of rumors – he was a German spy, he killed a man or he dealt in alcohol during the Dry Law.

Gatsby organizes a lot of parties inviting people he doesn’t really know but he is actually a lonely and sad man whose unique ambition it to take the girl he loves back-Daisy. But she’s now married with millionaire Tom Buchanan and they also have a daughter. Daisy is bored of her own life and when she gets to see Gatsby again, they have an affair. Tom has a lover too, Myrtle, who is George Wilson’s wife –the owner of the petrol station in Long Island.

The narrator is Nick Carraway, a young man that works at Wall Street. He’s Daisy’s cousin. He realizes that the rich are artificial and careless people and shows their frivolity throughout the novel.

Tom finally finds out the love story between his wife and Gatsby and the quarrel begins when they are at a hotel. Gatsby retorts that the reason Daisy married Tom was because he (Gatsby) was too poor to marry Daisy. Tom visibly loses composure and reveals that Gatsby is a bootlegger. Gatsby tries to defend himself to Daisy. However, with the situation between Tom and Gatsby tense, Daisy runs out of the hotel, with Gatsby following her, to Gatsby’s car, where she insists on driving home as it will calm her nerves. On the way home Daisy accidentally runs Myrtle over and kills her.

This is Tom’s best opportunity to get rid of Gatsby – he tells George Wilson that Gatsby was the one who killed Myrtle. Wilson believes him and murders Gatsby with a gunshot and finally killed himself.

Only Nick and Gatsby’s father show up at Gatsby’s funeral.

A sad ending that leaves you a nasty taste in your mouth.

 

Continue reading the analysis

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On the Grasshopper and Cricket

Analysis

Formal Analysis

We can see that there are four stanzas: two quatrains and two tercets. Each verse has ten syllables, so we conclude that it is a Petrarchan sonnet with the following full-rhyme:

ABBA-ABBA-CDE-CDE

Interpretation

The poet suggests that there is a connection in nature (winter-summer). He thinks that we can find poetry in nature. He feels that nature transmit him poetry, but it is necessary to have a “romantic soul” to feel nature. In few words, Keats is talking about harmony : his soul is connected with nature, and this never ends.

Nature is seen as something cosmic, and because of this I can say that he is pointing out to the sublime.

We can see that in Romanticism the connection and harmony was based on soul.

Nowadays I think that it is quite difficult to feel connected with nature. What  do you think?

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On the Grasshopper and Cricket, by John Keats

On the Grasshopper and Cricket

The poetry of earth is never dead:
When all the birds are faint with the hot sun,
And hide in cooling trees, a voice will run
From hedge about new-mown-mead-
That is the Grasshopper’s. He takes the lead
In summer luxury; he has never done
With his delights, for when tired out with fun
He rests at ease beneath some pleasant weed.
The poetry of earth is ceasing never:
On a lone winter evening when the frost
Has wrought a silence, from the stove there shrills
The Cricket’s song, in warmth increasing ever,
And seems to one in drowsiness half lost,
The Grasshopper’s among some grassy hills.

You can see that in the poem the animals are singing and when birds stop singing, then the cricket and the grasshopper begin to sing.
During winter men are at home with the heating listening to the cricket’s song and they imagine it in a hill.

Here you can find the analysis of this poem.

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Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley

A general View

Brave New World is set 600 years after it was written. The nine-year war has destroyed our customs and traditions, religions, family life and the idea of freedom has disappeared. It is a world without wars and patriotism.

This base of stability consists of the improvement of mankind through the reproduction in vitro: human beings are produced as a result of a mass production.

Once they have born, they are subjected to ‘neopavlovian’ methods; they listen to some slogans while they are sleeping, in order to buy things and to be happy with what they are, since their society is based on a caste system, in which there are: alphas, betas, gammas, deltas and epsilons; each of them with established functions.

Children grow up without parents, and sexuality is not seen as something bad, furthermore, it is an activity the child is persuaded to practise since they are very young.

There are no diseases, and geriatrics makes people feel young, and when death arrives, it is fast and without any kind of suffering.

Moreover, in order to make up for strong stimulus, there is a sensationalistic cinema where the public is able to experience emotions from their seats. And if there is still someone who does not feel happy, there is a drug called SOMA which is supplied by the state and makes us hallucinate without causing any harm.

A general summary

Huxley introduces us four characters that are conscious of the possibility of other ways of life. One of them is the main character Bernard Marx. He is an alpha but physically he is not as the rest of alphas; actually he looks like a gamma; and because of this he is not happy.

Apart from this new world, there is an Indian reservation in Nuevo Mexico, where millions of Indians live in a primitive way.  Within that people there is a man who has been brought up in that culture, but whose mother is a beta that got lost in the reservation when she was visiting it and was unable to come back to England. Because of his mother, this man learnt to speak English and he read an old book of Shakespeare.

Bernard goes to visit the reservation and he comes back with this man (the savage) and his mother. They will produce a lot of amazement in England. There, the savage feels overwhelmed. He sees that all his concepts of moral have no sense in that world, and he decides to hang himself.

In my opinion this is a very good novel since it was written when there were not all the technologies that there are nowadays. Today, ecological problems, hunger, overpopulation, and the fast development of industries are very common; but they were not so common half a century ago.

I think that Huxley is giving us some advice: if society continues focussing on progress and technologies without its moral progress as well, the future of the world will be one like the book describes.



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Laura Gallego

Laura Gallego was born in Valencia, Spain on 11 October 1977.


Her first book, Finis Mundi, was published in 1999 but it was the fourteenth book she has written. She won twice the price “El barco de vapor” and her books are translated into a lot of languages. The most famous are Memorias de Idhún, Crónicas de la Torre, Alas de fuego.

This is her bibliography:

Finis Mundi (2000)
El Valle de los Lobos (2000)
Retorno a Isla Blanca (2001)
Las hijas de Tara (2002)
La maldición del Maestro (2002)
La leyenda del Rey Errante (2003)
Mandrágora (2003)
La llamada de los muertos (2003)
El coleccionista de relojes extraordinarios (2004)
Fenris el elfo (2004)
Alas de fuego (2004)
La hija de la noche (2004)
Memorias de Idhún I: La Resistencia (2004)
Memorias de Idhún II: Tríada (2005)
Memorias de Idhún III: Panteón (2006)
La emperatriz de los Etéreos (2007)
Dos velas para el diablo (2008)
Sara y las Goleadoras I: Creando equipo (2009)
Alas negras (2009)
Sara y las Goleadoras II: Las chicas somos guerreras (2009)
Sara y las Goleadoras III: Goleadoras en la liga (2009)
Sara y las Goleadoras IV: El fútbol y el amor son incompatibles (2020)
Sara y las Goleadoras V: Las Goleadoras no se rinden (2010)
Sara y las Goleadoras VI: El último gol (2010)

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John Flanagan

John Flanagan was born in Australia on 22 May 1944.

The idea to write his most famous saga was the following. He wanted that his son read a book, and moreover, he was short, and all his friends were taller than him. So, the main character, Will, is a short boy, but very fast.

This is his bibliography:

The Ruins of Gorlan (2004)
The Burning Bridge (2005)
The Icebound Land (2005)
Oakleaf Bearers (2006)
The Sorcerer in the North (2006)
The Siege of Macindaw (2007)
Erak’s Ransom (2007)
The Kings of Clonmel (2008)
Halt’s Peril (2009)
Storm Peak (2009)
The Emperor of Nihon-Ja (2010)

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Federico Moccia

Federico Moccia was born in Rome, Italian on 11 November 1963.

His first book, written in 1992, whose title is Tre metri sopra il cielo, was refused by a lot of publishing house. So, he decided to self-published. It was a success, and in 2004 the book was published.

He has written more books. The majority of the stories take places in Rome, where he lives.

His bibliography:

Tre metri sopra il cielo (2004)
Ho vlogia di te (2006)
Cercasi Niki disperatamente (2007)
La passeggiata (2007)
Scusa Ma Ti Chiamo Amore (2007)
Amore 14 (2008)
Scusa Ma Ti Voglio Sposare (2009)

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Stephenie Meyer

Stephenie Meyer was born in Hartford, Connecticut, United States on 24 December 1973.

This author wrote a saga about vampires, that it was successful. Millions of books have been bought around the world. She never imagined that it was a great book when she had the fir thought about it.

She is writing another saga whose first book, The host, has been successful, but not as much as the previous.

Her bibliography is the following:

Twilight (2005)
New Moon (2006)
Eclipse (2007)
Prom Nights from Hell (section, 2007)
The Host (2008)
Breaking Dawn (2008)
The short second life of Bree Tanner (2010)

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J. K. Rowling

Joanne Kathleen Rowling was born in Yate, Gloucestershire, England on 31 July 1965.

The first idea that she had about Harry Potter was in a train from Manchester to London. She finished the first manuscript for Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone on an old manual typewriter in 1995. The book was refused by a lot of publishing house, until Bloomsbury published the first one.

She only wrote books about Harry Potter, but she has bought millions of books. So she is one of the richest writers around the world.

This is her bibliography:

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (July, 1997)
Harry Potter and the Chamber of secrets (July, 1998)
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (July, 1999)
Harry Potter and the Globet of Fire (July, 2000)
Fantastic Beast & Where to Find Them (2001)
Quidditch Through the Ages (2001)
Harry Potter and the order of the Phoenix (June, 2003)
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (July, 2005)
Harry Potter and the Dealthy Hallows (July, 2007)
The Tales of Beedle the Bard (December, 2008)

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